Michael Divine

How We Give

I’d planned on painting this evening but the current painting is finished. Instead, I found msyelf working on the second in the series, having finished the fifth. After drawing for a while and once again asking Fi (the cat) to graciously not curl up his twenty pound body on the drawing pad on my lap, I found myself reading up on some CSS manipulation for a site I’ve been working on and then looking into Rollingstone.com to see what was up there. I find interesting articles in amongst the music stuff, which I am less interested in than the journalism. I stumbled upon an interesting article about a fellow named Larry Brilliant – real name – and his philosophies and current station as head of Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, or tentacle if you will.

I understand that all things that come across in writing, no matter how… objective they may strive to be are still subject to the conceits and filters of the writers and editors. Larry will come across through what he makes available to the interviewer and delivered to the reader through sound bites, snippets and word play, a few casual observations and some interviews with allies, associates and critics. Yet, the final feeling i get from it is “Why do we do what we do- for profit, personal gain, or… something more estimable?”. Mr. Brilliant has found himself asked to head up Google’s giving back system, and at that sitting upon a pile of cash to do something with. Not bad for an ex-guru-following-acid-eating-hippie (a highly stressed point as it were, as if to make the RS reader more sympathetic to him and to give him some street cred). But regardless of his history and his story, the point of the matter is that he is a guy who has tried to do a lot to help others and has, in many ways, succeeded, at least, according to this article and according to the perspective I’m left with.

When I read this kind of thing it makes me think two things- why do I do what I do and how do I give back. We strive to make things more sustainable- using recycled paper for everything, low wattage bulbs, etc- but there is more to it. So we look for foundations to give money to, a percentage of our profits. We are no multi billion dollar Google, but, at the same time, we do fairly well, all things considered and that $50 spent on dinner could maybe be better used by someone in need… so it is given to someone in need… And yet, it never feels like it is enough.

I wonder if there is an alternate reality where there is a me that figured out how to take this painting stuff out into the world and help cure cancer with it, or help to solve the hunger or water issues. And was able to do so without seeking personal gain. Such an interesting thing, personal gain. Even if we give because it makes us feel good to give (a valid reason I hear) it is still for personal gain! So how to give without giving from a sense of… well… self. Giving to simply give. This is a great lesson of life. Along with the lesson of how to love, so is the lesson of how to give. Such lessons can be traced back to the original core belief in the sense of self/ego/identity and it is that sense that leads to so many dilemmas. What is really giving? What is really loving? What is really breathing? What is really being?

Shall we stop giving until we have truly perfected the art of giving? Shall we stop loving until we have truly figured out how to love?

Practice makes perfect, or so they say. Life is the kind of thing that can only be perfected by being utilized. Like yoga, where we cannot learn how to properly do our downward dog by reading books, although they can offer advice, we cannot learn how to properly love or give by memorizing the words of those who may have found something close enough to approximate a sense of what it is to love or give selflessly. We can only learn by practice.

So we give and we give and we give, until there is nothing left to give. We love until we feel we have no more love to give. Maybe at that point we realize it was never “I” that was doing the loving afterall. At that point, we may discover what a true love really is.

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